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2010 Record: (5-7, 2-6 in Big 12)

Head Coach: Mack Brown (133-34 at Texas, 219-108-1 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2009/2010 National Championship Game (lost to Alabama 37-21)

2010 Preview

Returning Big 12 Offensive Firepower

 

Schedule

9/3: Rice (2010 result: won 34-17)

9/10: BYU

9/17: at UCLA (2010 result: lost 34-12)

10/1: at Iowa St (2010 result: lost 28-21)

10/8: Oklahoma (2009 result: lost 28-20)

10/15: Oklahoma State (2010 result: lost 33-16)

10/29: Kansas (2009 result: won 51-20)

11/5: Texas Tech (2009 result: won 24-14)

11/12: at Missouri (2009 result: won 41-7)

11/19: Kansas State (2010 result: lost 39-14)

11/24: at Texas A&M (2010 result: lost 24-17)

12/3: at Baylor (2010 result: lost 30-22)



2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 23.8 ppg (10th in Big 12, 88th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 150.50 yds/game (7th in Big 12, 66th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 232.0 yds/game (7th in Big 12, 50th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 382.5 yds/game (8th in Big 12, 58th in Nation)

 

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 23.7 ppg (5th in Big 12, 49th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 138.58 yds/game (3rd in Big 12, 44th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 161.6 yds/game (2nd in Big 12, 6th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 300.2 yds/game (1st in Big 12, 6th in Nation)

 

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: -1.00 per game (last in Big 12, 116th in Nation)

Penalties: 55.3 yds/game (5th in Big 12, 76th in Nation)

 

Returning Starters:

Offense: 6

Defense: 6

Kicker/Punter: 1

 

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB Garrett Gilbert, Jr (260 of 441 for 2744 yds, 10 TD, 17 INT)

Rushing: RB Cody Johnson, Sr (134 for 592 yds, 4.4 ypc, 6 TD)

Receiving: WR Mike Davis, Soph (47 rec for 478 yds, 2 TD)

Tackles: LB Keenan Robinson, Sr (106)

Sacks: DE Alex Okafor, Jr; LB Emmanuel Acho, Sr (3.5)

Interceptions: LB Keenan Robinson, Sr (2)

 

Bowl Predictions:

Athlon: Alamo Bowl (vs Stanford)

Phil Steele: Cotton Bowl (vs Arkansas)

 

Having Texas picked as the #25 team in the country might come as a surprise for some. This is a team that is just one year removed from finishing 13-0 in the regular season and playing for the National Championship. When we did our preview last year we took a look at seven other pre-season polls and every single one of them had Texas finishing in the Top 10. Unfortunately for Texas it didn't turn out that way. Texas struggled mightily on the offensive side of the football and lost seven of their last nine games en route to a 5-7 year. Mack Brown has made a lot of changes on the coaching staff as he brings in Bryan Harsin from Boise State to run the offense and Manny Diaz from Mississippi State to run the defense. Both are hires that we like very much. The question that remains is how quickly can they help Mack turn this ship around. 

The biggest question-mark on this team might just be QB. Garrett Gilbert returns after a disappointing first year at the helm in which he threw seven more interceptions than he did touchdowns. He is expected to be the starter going into the season despite a poor showing the spring game and a number of young QBs on his heels. Statisically the running game hasn't been the same since Jamaal Charles left campus and a lot of hopes are riding on the shoulders of top recruit Malcolm Brown. Yet another question-mark on the offensive side of the football is the play-making ability of the WR corps. The leading TD receiver from last year had just two TD catches. When we compare that against previous years you see a huge drop off (Jordan Shipley had 13 in 2009 and 11 in 2008, Nate Jones, Jordan Shipley and Quan Crosby had 5 in 2007, and Limas Sweed had 12 in 2006). Bryan Harsin will be sharing the OC duties with Major Applewhite and they have their work cut out for them. The returning defense feels like it has a lot less question mark than the defense as they return guys like Keenan Robinson, Emanuel Acho, Kheeston Randall, Blake Gideon, Alex Okafor and Jordan Hicks. The defense definitely feels like it has more talent and as a group out-performed the offense last year.

The schedule looks very similar to 2010 with the exception of Nebraska and the addition of BYU. The first four games will be pivitol for the Longhorns as they face teams that they went 1-2 against last year. The season starts against Rice and then they place a very tough BYU team in a game that will be televised on ESPN 2. After that the Longhorns will be looking for blood as they try and bounce back from losses last year against UCLA and Iowa State. It's critical that Texas wins those four games (or at least three of them) if they want to have a good season as they face Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in back-to-back games on October 8th and 15th. Texas could very well be 3-3 going into the second half of the schedule but the schedule does ease up on the back half. The Longhorns still play Texas Tech, Missouri, A&M and Baylor but they have more than a fighters chance in all of those games. This is a huge year for Mack Brown. He has re-vamped his coaching staff and aims to show everybody that last year was an aberration. Can Texas right their ship this year? We caught up with Kris Hughes, founder of the Fanattic Network and the go-to guy over at Bevo's Corner to get his take on the 2011 Texas Longhorns.

 

Let's start by talking about the off-season OC and DC hires of Manny Diaz and Bryan Harsin. What are your thoughts on these coaches?

Manny Diaz brings a hard-nosed mentality with him from Mississippi State. He has already earned the nickname “Coach Doom” around the Forty Acres for his no-nonsense style and approach to practice and preparation. The strength of the Texas defense will be the linebacking corps, so a 4-3 defense is likely to be the base set to allow linebackers the opportunity to stunt gaps and try to get in the backfield often to disrupt the opposing quarterback. Diaz’s ability to best utilize a young defensive line and an even younger secondary will likely determine how successful the defense is overall in 2011.

Diaz doesn’t differ substantially from Will Muschamp, who earned his players’ respect quickly and was seen as a “player’s coach”, but it seems that his overall approach to the game will be more cerebral and reactionary based on what the offense is showing. Muschamp had the sets he liked, and the Texas defense last season tended to stick to those sets to a fault whether or not they made sense given how the opposing offense was playing.

On the other side of the ball, Bryan Harsin’s offensive style is far more creative than his predecessor, Greg Davis. Davis’ conservative style -- dependent on zone reads, quick outs, and screens -- rarely led to an explosive play. Many believe that Texas’ success under Davis was due more to the outstanding athletes he had at QB (Vince Young, Colt McCoy) and their surrounding skill players than it was due to Davis’ play-calling or in-game design.

This became even more obvious when Garrett Gilbert struggled in these types of conservative sets. Gilbert seemed nervous to make a mistake and therefore did not trust his feet to make a play outside of Davis’ called play, regardless of opportunity. Harsin, who will be a co-offensive coordinator with Major Applewhite, will not hesitate to throw in a trick play here and there (as evident with his calls at Boise State), or run something out of an un-anticipated set to keep the opposition’s defense honest -- and on its heels.



From watching the spring game, the biggest question mark looked like the QB position. Who do you think will be under center this year for Texas?

Garrett Gilbert should emerge as the prohibitive starter, but he will be on a much shorter leash than he was in 2010. Gilbert will be required to be a game manager for the most part this season and will not be asked to make any throws which could adversely affect his already shaky confidence. If he can manage the game with success, and the running backs (most notably newcomer Malcolm Brown) can produce as expected, then his job should be relatively secure. Expecting Colt McCoy-type passing numbers is just not reasonable.

However, if he continues to have a crisis of confidence after making mistakes and if they start to snowball, Mack Brown and the Texas coaching staff will have no choice -- due to pressure from fans and the media -- but to pull him and give either Case McCoy or David Ash an opportunity. (Case) McCoy was solid in the spring game, showing some of the arm strength, precision and escapability that made him a high priority for Texas in the recruiting races a few years back. Connor Wood didn’t get many snaps but seems to have a strong arm. Ash is the X-factor that no one is really sure of yet. Ash put up massive numbers at Belton High during his senior season and has the size, arm, and strength to play quickly. Chances are, if he doesn’t see much action this season, and Gilbert does struggle, the QB competition next season, with the arrival of Scottsdale gunslinger Connor Brewer, will be even more open and intense than it is in preparation for this season.

 

Texas has a highly-touted 5-star RB named Malcolm Brown coming in this year. What are your expectations for him?

Malcolm Brown is the most-hyped running back to arrive in Austin since Ricky Williams. Media outlets -- both local and national -- have built his hype to the point that you would think he was Earl Campbell. Facts are, Brown won’t even be the starter in the season opener on September 3rd against Rice. Fozzy Whitaker, the senior RB, will be the starter and will get the first few carries of the season. This isn’t to say that Brown won’t emerge as the starter as the season continues, but he will have to earn it. It’s not going to be handed to him just because of the hype.

Regardless, he does have five-star tools and ability, and if he can live up to the hype and become one of the top freshmen in the Big 12, it could pay huge dividends for the Texas offense and take a ton of pressure off of Garrett Gilbert’s shoulders (literally). Brown’s downhill running style could be very effective in an offense that will be focused on ball control. He can churn yardage and pick it up in chunks, occasionally breaking a big run. If Texas can find a speed-back threat to use along with Brown (possibly D.J. Monroe or Traylon Shead), it could be a very positive development for the offense.

 

What has to happen for Texas to prove last year was a fluke and get back into contention this year for the Big 12 Championship?

There are several things that need to happen for the Longhorns to prove that last season was a fluke. First, and foremost, the season’s first three games need to be convincing wins. Texas shouldn’t have too much trouble with Rice, but UCLA (the Longhorns’ first surprise loss of 2010) and BYU could be a different story.

A win against UCLA in Los Angeles would help the Horns prove early that not only was last season’s loss in Austin a fluke, but that the Horns have some fight and heart. A win against BYU (who looks to have another strong season) would be a nice confidence builder going into the Big 12 opener against Iowa State in Ames.  Any loss in the pre-conference games could derail UT’s bowl chances - the last thing they need is another uphill climb. Given that the Longhorns don’t have their first Big 12 home game until October 15th, they will also have to adopt a road team’s mentality in the season’s first-half.

The overwhelming weaknesses last year were in the offensive line and secondary, along with the shakiness of the QB play. Chances are, if the offensive line has improved as we are led to believe, Garrett Gilbert’s play will also improve. With time to scan defenses, his throwing ability should begin to shine through.

The secondary will be young and will be forced to show they can stop an aggressive passing attack. If nothing else, both units will be deep and should be able to keep fresh legs on the field through platooning if it becomes necessary to find a mix that works.

 

Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?

As I mentioned, the non-conference games against UCLA and BYU on consecutive Saturdays are going to be essential to building some early-season momentum for Texas. If they can go to LA and knock off UCLA and then win in Austin against BYU, Iowa State the next weekend shouldn’t be too much of a test. Conversely, if there are one or two losses in the three non-conference games, the low confidence level could lead to another early Big 12 loss in Ames.

Obviously, as it always is, the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma is huge.  A win there could help Texas the following Saturday against an Oklahoma State team that promises to be as good as they have been in years. The OU game could be the tipping point between a winning season and an unfortunate repeat of 2010 (5-7).

 

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

It is the impression of most in the “Longhorn Nation” that a return to a bowl game in 2011 will be the mark of a successful season. Making it to a BCS game this season is probably not in the cards, unless Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have some unexpected losses along the way.

I hope for an 8-4 or 9-3 regular season in 2011. Anything closer to .500 (or another losing season) will start to raise some serious questions around the Forty Acres.

 

 

Coming later in August: Big 12 Preview

 

2011 Team Previews

ACC- Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, NC State, UNC, Virginia, Wake Forest

Big 12- Baylor , Iowa St, Kansas, Kansas St, Texas Tech

Big East- Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn, USF

Big Ten- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota ,Northwestern, Penn St, Purdue

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston ,Marshall, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF

FCS- Georgia Southern, Georgia State

Independent- Army

MAC- Akron, Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo , Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Temple, Toledo, Western Michigan

MWC- Air Force, New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

Pac-12- Arizona , Arizona St, California, Colorado, Oregon St, UCLA, Utah, Washington

SEC- Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy , ULM, Western Kentucky

WAC- Fresno St, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico St, San Jose St